Several years ago, I began writing a novel. It was, if I am honest, almost definitely one of those endeavors that falls into the category of “manuscripts that should never see the light of day.” I never finished it, thanks to two pregnancies (and the lovely, energetic products of said pregnancies), a crashed computer, and a coming to my senses. Five-and-a-half years after abandoning that project, I am relieved to say that I have not written a cheesy tale of small Southern town legacies likely to appeal to readers of Cold Sassy Tree. (Not that that was an awful book, but I really think mine would have been insufferable).
Anyhow, when I finally got around to completing a novel – and planning out an entire trilogy and then some – I found myself squarely in the Fantasy genre. Understand, Fantasy has always been a part of my life, ever since my father read C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and J.R.R. Tolkien while my sisters and I washed the dishes. Still, I never thought of actually writing fantasy myself… But that’s exactly what I did, and when I was through, I looked around my fantastical world and wondered:
How exactly did this happen?
First of all, I blame my ten-year-old son. One can only devour so much Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, Lloyd Alexander, and Donita K. Paul without finding oneself at least a little swayed toward the fantasy genre. Furthermore, after perusing the library so many times for good books for my oldest two boys, I got to thinking how thrilling it would be to write something they and I could love together.
More than this, though, I find what really draws me toward fantasy is the creative freedom to tell a good and relevant tale. Morgan Busse writes of showing what faith looks like without the modern trappings of traditional Christian culture and of finding in Christian speculative fiction the opportunity to illustrate reality in ways she could not do if she were writing of the world we know.
I could not agree more.
Good Fantasy, I believe, draws us into a new and wonderful world, shows us all the beauty, frailty, and cruelty of that world, and at the very last, reveals itself as a gentle mirror of the world in which we live and move. It allows us to face our flaws, failures, and fears – and those of our societies – in part by removing all real-life hindrances to sympathy. Perhaps one cannot relate to a poor New York City boy, but when Gregor plunges into the Underland, all superficialities are flung aside, and we strive with Gregor as he seeks to understand his new comrades, as he struggles to get home, and as he fights to save the Underland. Finally, we sit with him on a New York City bench, viewing our world – the “real” world – with new eyes, having seen so much of ourselves in the wild world below. I’m not sure Gregor would have taught us so much had he remained in the crowded halls of his public school. No, we needed to travel with him into a world as foreign to us as to him. Only then could we see that his world, over and under, is ours.
So that’s how I ended up here and why I’m more than happy to be here, writing in a genre I never anticipated claiming so wholeheartedly. What about you? What genre do you write or enjoy reading, and why?